Leaving the EU does not present the opportunity many think it does to ban live exports, though the Green Party will support genuine efforts to do so, says South East MEP Keith Taylor.
The Government’s consultation on live animal exports recently closed. I submitted evidence to the consultation, setting out my opposition to the trade.
I also joined campaigners across the world taking part in last month’s Stop Live Transport action day.
According to the most recent official Government figures, 400,000 live animals are exported from Britain, with 43,000 being transported from the UK to the continent.
The figures are shocking. Live exports are unnecessary and barbaric. I will continue to stand alongside the passionate and dedicated campaigners calling for an outright ban on this cruel and unnecessary trade.
All live exports cause significant discomfort and suffering. And, on far too many occasions, the regulations in place to mitigate that suffering have been circumvented or ignored by the industry. It bears repeating that all this suffering is entirely unnecessary.
However, as my ‘Animals and Brexit’ report makes clear, it is important to address the misplaced buzz of excitement which suggests leaving the EU will finally offer an opportunity to ban live exports.
The issue was never that black and white. Ultimately, as members of the single market or the World Trade Organisation, the UK is and will continue to be governed by trade regulations which enshrine the free movement of goods.
It is this principle that treats beautiful and sentient animals as ‘goods’, as if they are no different from a bottle of whiskey or bar of chocolate.
It is this principle that the Government must be prepared to fight. And while, sadly, the UK has consistently failed to back the ongoing cross-party, EU-wide fight against live exports, any genuine efforts it makes now will be supported by the Green Party.
At the European level, Greens will continue to support the EU-wide campaign to introduce maximum journey times. The #StopTheTrucks campaign has, so far, gained the support of more than a million citizens.
The campaign is calling for maximum journey times which would effectively stop live exports from the UK to the continent and also prevent millions of farm animals enduring long distance journeys across the EU.
As the Green Party’s Animals spokesperson, I recognise the need to embrace the renewed momentum behind the domestic campaign to ban live exports.
As the vice chair of the European Parliament’s Animal Welfare Intergroup, I know we have the best chance of improving the lives of the most animals, across the whole of Europe, by working with our European neighbours on this issue.